BRAWLEY — The Imperial County Farm Bureau held their Annual Meeting of Members where they also honored Ben Abatti, Sr. as the 2016 Jim Kuhn Memorial Farmer of the Year Thursday evening at the Stockmen’s Club in Brawley.
Abatti’s father settled in the Imperial Valley in 1913 and soon began farming. Ben was born in 1935 and worked with his father on the farm. In 1956, Ben formed a partnership with his brother, naming it appropriately, Ben & Tony Abatti Farms, with Tony as the mechanic and Ben as grower, salesman, and shipper. Their sister, Agnes joined the team in 1958 as the bookkeeper.
Together, the company grew through hard work that developed a diversification of many commodities, including cantaloupe, mixed melons, onions, honeydews, lettuce, broccoli, rapini, asparagus, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, sugar beets, grains, cotton, forage crops, tomatoes, and citrus.
Abatti married his wife Margaret in 1960. They had five children, Benny, Michael, Jimmy, Jennifer, and Anna, all of whom worked in the family business at one time or another.
In 1967, the brothers formed Abatti Produce, Inc. Over the years they were very successful and farmed over 24,000 acres, employing over 7,000 people in their fields and seven packing sheds. Abatti Farms, LLC was formed in 1995.
Abatti has had many ‘firsts,’ including planting seedless watermelons and starting a cantaloupe factory to transition from wooden crates to cardboard boxes.
He has been a key spokesman for the Imperial Valley agriculture industry at the local and state levels.
Abatti has made countless contributions to various youth programs and to his church. He was instrumental in forming the annual Imperial County 4H BBQ in 1976.
Aside from family and farming, Abatti enjoys hunting and fishing.
At 81, Abatti has not lost his passion for farming and continues to work seven days a week.